Rays face skidding Mariners, look for seventh straight win

After being swept in a four-game series in Seattle last season, the Tampa Bay Rays and their resurgent offense will look to return the favor to the host Mariners on Sunday.

The Rays earned their season-high sixth straight victory Saturday night in an 8-2 rout of the Mariners, who have dropped six consecutive games.

As the Rays’ seven-game trip started, manager Kevin Cash changed the order by moving right-handed hitter Yandy Diaz into the leadoff spot and No. 1 hitter Brandon Lowe — a lefty swinger — into the cleanup role.

In the revamped lineup, Diaz has gone going 7-for-25 with a homer, double, five runs and three RBIs. Lowe, who batted fifth Saturday, has at least one hit in every game (6-for-15) on the trip with two homers, a double, five runs and three RBIs.

In a six-game hitting streak, Lowe is hitting .368, while Manuel Margot has batted .440 with five extra-base hits and 12 RBIs in a seven-game hitting streak.

Margot’s first career grand slam Saturday came on the heels of a three-run shot to win Friday’s game.

“I’ve never really had that many opportunities to hit a grand slam, and that time I did,” Margot said.

Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, 19.29 ERA) will make his second start after working through a groin injury early in the season. He is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in one career start against the Mariners, on Aug. 11, 2019.

In that one, the left-hander was pulled by Cash after allowing just three hits in 8 2/3 scoreless innings. The Rays won 1-0.

Before Saturday’s game, the Rays demoted struggling left-hander Josh Fleming (2-3, 6.38).

The main effect of sending him down will be opening up a starter or bulk-innings role for lefty Jeffrey Springs (1-0, 0.69), who has allowed one run on seven hits in 13 innings across nine outings.

In Anaheim on Monday, Springs is expected to pitch in an extended role in the Rays’ series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

Mariners manager Scott Servais will look for his club, which is 1-10 in its past 11 games, to get a boost from pitcher George Kirby in his first start in the majors on Sunday.

Kirby, 24, is a 2019 first-round pick (20th overall) out of Elon University and is the No. 11 prospect, according to Baseball America.

In five games for the Double-A Arkansas this season, Kirby is 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA. He has struck out 32 in 24 2/3 innings.

He is essentially taking the place of Matt Brash, who was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma.

“I told him today I’m not looking for eight innings out of him tomorrow,” Servais said Saturday. “Keep us in the ballgame, even if it goes a little bit rough early on; keep filling up the strike zone and take your chances.”

Kirby has a 97 mph fastball and pinpoint control, but Servais said the right-hander will need more than just heat in his major-league debut.

“He’s got a really good fastball,” Servais said. “But the velocity in our league, it really doesn’t scare people off. You have to have the secondary weapons, and he’s really focused on that.”

–Field Level Media